New Delhi, Aug 19: Upping the ante, social activist Anna Hazare on Friday gave a 12 day deadline (by August 30) to the government to pass the Jan Lokpal bill failing which he will continue his fast “till my last breath”.
At the same time, Team Anna said that a dialogue with the government is the only way out although they will not compromise on corruption.
Addressing a press conference at Ramlila Grounds where he moved from Tihar Jail earlier on Friday to begin his 15-day protest, Hazare made a surprise announcement that he would not leave the fast venue till the bill is passed.
“I have made the decision of my life. It is up to the government to pass the bill. If the bill is not passed in this (on going) session, then I will continue my fast till my last breath,” the 73-year-old social activist told reporters at the fast venue.
Replying to questions whether he was shifting the goalpost after agreeing to restrict the fast to a fortnight, Hazare's close associate Arvind Kejriwal said “Anna Hazare will be here.”
The Delhi Police Commissioner has agreed that the fast can be extended by a week on four days' notice, he said.
Hazare said “We have permission till September 2 but if by August 30 the bill is not passed then people will be asked to fill jails across the country.”
“We are willing to have a discussion with the government with an open mind but there cannot be any compromise on corruption,” Hazare's aide Prashant Bhushan said.
“....Resolution of problems comes through only negotiations,” Kejriwal, another associate said.
Hazare said, “first introduce the Jan Lokpal bill. I have gone to the People's Parliament. Till the bill is not passed, I am not going to leave this place. I am saying this on behalf of people.”
His toughening of stand came on the fourth day of his fast that began in police detention on Tuesday morning and continued throughout his stay in Tihar jail from which he came out today to a huge welcome by his supporters.
Hazare said he has “made the decision of my life” that he will not give up the fast till the Jan Lokpal is passed.
Maintaining that the government has majority in both Parliament and the Standing Committee, he said it was up to the government to see how it will get the bill passed.
Asked about Justice Santosh Hegde's comments that Team Hazare could consider keeping Prime Minister and higher judiciary out of Lokpal, Kejriwal said it was Hegde's personal opinion and Anna Campaign has not changed its stand. But he also said that there was no differences within the team.
Kejriwal alleged that the government was making Parliament and Standing Committee a “shield” for not passing the Jan Lokpal bill.
Stressing that higher judiciary needs to be within the ambit of Lokpal, he said the judges deciding the fate of tainted brother-judges will not suffice under the Judicial Accountability Bill.
To a question, Bhushan said they were not averse to a dialogue with the government with an open mind. “We are not afraid of discussions. If somebody from the government wants to discuss, we have no problems. But we are not ready to compromise on corruption,” he said.
Kejriwal said nobody from the government has approached them for discussions so far.
He parried a question whether Team Hazare was becoming extreme and was leaving the Gandhian to die.
Earlier, addressing the throng of supporters soon after he reached Ramlila Ground, Mr. Hazare gave enough indications that it will be a prolonged one by declaring that he will not quit the venue till the Jan Lokpal bill is brought.
“We will not leave this ground till the Jan Lokpal Bill is brought,” he said after reaching the spacious venue after a three-hour drive from the prison where he spent three nights.
On the fourth day of his fast, he looked totally fit when he sprinted a short distance in Rajghat to escape from rain though he had lost three kg of weight since Tuesday.
Both outside Tihar Jail and at Ramlila Maidan, he made a brief address to his supporters in which he said that the second freedom struggle has started for liberating India from corruption.
“There was a revolution in 1942 because of which the British had to quit India. But the loot and rowdyism have not stopped. That is why the second freedom struggle has begun.
“Do not allow this torch of struggle to be put out whether Anna is alive or not,” he told the cheering crowd at the spacious Ramlila Maidan.
After refusing to come out of Tihar Jail despite unconditional release on Tuesday and some hard bargaining, he extracted from authorities permission to hold his protest for 15 days from the 25,000 capacity ground instead of J P Park.
Police had initially given permission to Hazare to hold the fast for three days from August 16 in JP Park with a crowd restriction of 5,000.
Team Hazare has been campaigning for adoption of its Jan Lokpal that will cover Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament besides other provisions.
In a message that he would not make any compromise in his campaign, Hazare said, “you can sever my head but you cannot make me bow.” PTI